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Utah football: Utes loaded at tight end position

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes tight end Westlee Tonga (80) runs the ball during a practice at the Spence Eccles Field House Thursday April 12, 2012.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 17 2012 09:42PM
Updated Apr 18, 2012 12:02AM

Even with several veteran players at the tight end position, the Utes are considering keeping Westlee Tonga at the tight end spot for 2012.

Tonga was moved to defensive end at the start of spring ball but then went back to the offense when David Rolf went out with a calf injury.

Also missing from camp are Kendrick Moeai and Dallin Rogers, who are recovering from surgeries. Right now, sophomore Jake Murphy is slated as the starting tight end and has looked solid in camp. So why the potential logjam at a position in which the Utes haven’t really utilized much in recent years? Wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick said the plan is to use the tight ends more in 2012.

"It’s the best group of tight ends we’ve had since I’ve been here," he said. "There is a lot of versatility and we can spread the offense out. There is a lot we can do with them."

The Utes had plans for using the tight ends in similar fashion in 2011, but felt they didn’t use them to their potential after switching to a more conservative gameplan following the season-ending injury to Jordan Wynn.

Rogers led the tight ends with 22 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Moeai had 15 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown and Murphy had five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.

The potential to get more chances is just what Murphy wants to hear. He had three catches for 51 yards against BYU, but also suffered a knee injury. Between his own injury recovery and the change in offensive philosophy, Murphy didn’t get many opportunities the rest of the season.

So far the schemes the Utes are running in spring are to his liking.

"It feels like a real dynamic offense, explosive and fast," he said. "Last year was a good time for me to learn. This year I am confident, excited and ready to go."

Getting hitched

Murphy, the son of baseball great Dale Murphy, proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Arianne Ingersoll, during the family’s recent visit to the Braves’ spring training.

The younger Murphy threw the first pitch of an exhibition game to his father, then dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She of course, said, yes. The two plan to get married in May.

"We’ve known each other since middle school," Murphy said. "Her uncle was my baseball coach and my mom and her dad and families have been friends for a long time so we’ve known each other for a long time."

Red-White plans

The Red-White game will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. The game is free to the public and has several events planned around it.

An Ultimate Tailgate contest will be held in the morning, the MUSS Flag Football game is at 11 a.m. and the Alumni Football game is at noon. Players and coaches will be available for autographs too following the game on the East concourse, not on the field as in the past.

The game will feature 10-minute quarters with a normal clock in the first half and a running clock in the second half.

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